Israeli leaders expressed shock and horror that Israeli Jews are apparently responsible for the kidnapping and brutal murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a sixteen year old boy from the Beit Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem, whose burned body was found in the Jerusalem Forest on July 2.
Six Israelis were arrested, and are believed to have carried out the murder as an act of revenge for the killing of 3 Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who were kidnapped on June 12, and murdered by Palestinians associated with Hamas.
Following a condolence call to the families of the 3 Israelis teens, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the shocking killing of Muhammad, and declared:
We do not differentiate between the terrorists and we will respond to all of them, wherever they come from, with a firm hand. We will not allow extremists from wherever they come to ignite the region and shed more blood.
The following day, July 7, in speaking to Muhammad’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, the Prime Minister said:
I would like to express my outrage and that of the citizen of Israel over the reprehensible murder of your son. We acted immediately to apprehend the murderers. We will bring them to trial and they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. We denounce all brutal behavior; the murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being.
Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke emotionally to Mr. Abu Khdeir, saying:
I am ashamed on behalf of my nation and grieve with you. The only thing left for all of us to do is to ensure that no more children are murdered, and no more tears are shed by mothers.
Peres was joined by incoming president Ruby Rivlin in an op-ed in Yediot Ahronot , appealing to Jewish and Arab Israelis to fight incitement and hate:
…there is no difference between blood and blood. The democratic State of Israel sanctifies the moral right to life and the equal right each person has to be different. The murder of a boy or a girl, Jewish or Arab, is an unacceptable act…It is our duty to stop the journey of incitement. We must understand that we have no other way but to live together. The bloodshed will only stop when we all realize that we have not been sentenced to live together, but destined to live together. Any hesitation or compromise on this issue will lead to deterioration which could be disastrous not just to our life together, but to our actual life.
Joining the official pronouncements were those of a more personal nature. In The Times of Israel, Sherri Mandell, the mother of thirteen year old, Koby Mandell who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 2001, harshly condemned the killers of Muhammad, writing in a blog entitled “How Dare You”:
When I heard that the three yeshiva boys, Naftali, Eyal, and Gil-ad, were murdered I admit I felt both rage and anger. Those are legitimate feelings when young boys in your community are kidnapped and murdered. But the Jewish way is always to choose life, not death. To seek justice, not vengeance. Justice is not burning another innocent human being alive. Justice is allowing the government to find the murderers and punish them. I am concerned about how the world views us in Israel. But I am more concerned about what we say and think about ourselves. What can we believe about our own society now that you have weakened our integrity? We are guilty of committing an abominable depraved act.
Perhaps the most poignant condemnations came from the families of the three Israeli teens. Naftali Fraenkel’s uncle, Yishai, reached out to the Abu Khdeir family and said: “there is no difference between those who murdered Muhammad, and those who murdered our children. Those are murderers, and these are murderers. And both must be dealt with to the full extent of the law, and we told him that.”